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Nolan Carroll will handle first kickoff

PHILADELPHIA -- The odds are against Josh Huff making as spectacular a regular-season debut as he made in the preseason.

Huff, the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie wide receiver, returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the preseason opener in Chicago. A week later, though, Huff injured his shoulder during the Eagles’ game against the New England Patriots. He is still not able to practice.

In Huff’s absence, cornerback Nolan Carroll will return kickoffs for the Eagles. That’s a little bit of a surprise, since Darren Sproles has been an effective kick returner, too.

“The way we’re doing things from a return standpoint, I think the way Nolan hits things, he really fits our blocking scheme,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “You’ll see Darren back there. He could be there on the second kick. Brandon Boykin could be back there. Brad Smith could be back there. We’ve got a lot of guys who can return kickoffs.”

Sproles broke a long kickoff for the Saints in their playoff victory over the Eagles in January. Cornerback Cary Williams drew a horse-collar penalty by taking Sproles down from behind. The return set up the Saints’ game-winning field goal.

Carroll hasn’t returned kicks since 2010, his rookie season with the Dolphins. He returned 27 kickoffs that year, averaging 24.3 yards per return.

“It’s just another job,” Carroll said. “We all have roles on this team. This is just another role that I have. So I’m going to go out and execute it.”

Nine different Eagles returned at least one kickoff last year. Damaris Johnson, who was released over the weekend, led the team with 17 returns and a 25.9-yard average. Boykin returned nine kicks for an average of 22.8 yards.

It is an area Kelly sought to upgrade over the offseason. When you’re goal is to score quickly on every possession, field position is an important element. Huff was drafted to play wide receiver, but his return skills were a major factor in the Eagles’ decision to draft him in the third round.